There Before Your Members Know They Need It

Numerica Credit Union’s updated disaster recovery system consolidates processes and data and makes information more easily accessible.

Kelley Ferguson, chief information officer at Numerica Credit Union ($1.3B; Spokane, WA), knocks on wood when he discusses the credit union’s new disaster recovery solution.

The good news is, we’ve never had a disaster where we’ve had major servers die and we’ve had to invoke our disaster recovery, Ferguson says.

Headquartered in Spokane, WA, the state-chartered cooperative has membership stretching from central Washington to northern Idaho. Those members have come to expect quality service that includes low rates, attractive terms, and helpful products. Now, Numerica is confident it is also providing for its members’ intangible needs through a data recovery and backup system it adopted in June 2013.

Out With The Old

Before Numerica partnered with its new provider, IT-Lifeline, the institution backed-up data on encrypted tapes it kept locked in containers in storage rooms. In the event of a disaster, the credit union would securely transport the tapes to an off-site location. The system was not necessarily Flintstone, but also not quite Jetson.

It wasn’t bad by any means, Ferguson says. It wasn’t antiquated. It was an old way of doing things. It was like walking into the teller.

Numerica knew there were better options and wanted to upgrade its disaster recovery system to give members peace of mind. When disaster strikes and members are focused on property damage or the health of loved ones, the last thing they need to worry about is the status of their money. Numerica wants its members to know their money is safe so they are free to deal with other issues.

Unfortunately, disaster is often unavoidable. It’s not easy to accommodate, but Numerica’s new disaster recovery solution consolidates processes and data and makes the information more accessible. It backs up files and important data as well as provides a holistic view of the credit union’s systems and technology in one place.

Within a few minutes we could spin up that [new] server and business could be as usual, Ferguson says. We wouldn’t have to order the tapes to be sent back to us from the secured facility; we wouldn’t have to wait for it to get to transit; we wouldn’t have to wait for the bare metal server to get here; there wouldn’t be that interruption for our business process or our members. That type of solution allows us to have disaster recovery at our fingertips.

In With The New

Credit unions look after their members’ money, and when they do that well, members can take for granted the resources credit unions dedicate to protecting it. For Ferguson, that’s okay. If its members are happy and their money is safe, then the credit union is doing its job. Seamless service just goes to show the credit union is there even when members don’t know they need it.

Quite frankly there is no member impact, he says. Member impact is that there is no impact.

Numerica’s old disaster recovery system worked fine to meet members’ needs, but they would feel its impact. Today’s member has come to expect so much more.

[The new system is] really just a fallback solution, says Ferguson. It doesn’t enhance the speed of any of our delivery channels. Where the rubber meets the road is knock on wood in the event that anything did happen, we’d be able to recover from that quickly and efficiently.

A large part of the recovery effort, and expense, lies with the employees dedicated to maintaining and running the system. Initially, the credit union had to make sure it gave the project the attention it required, and Ferguson warns about shortchanging a new system like this before it even gets off the ground.

Make sure you have somebody dedicated to the project for an extended period of time, he says. Inventorying and indexing all of your data on your network is a large job. To do it right and request the right amount of storage really takes a dedicated person to the project.

And now that Numerica has its system up and running, it plans to keep it in shape. The credit union plans to run quarterly tests, perhaps even more frequently, to ensure the system responds effectively. If, or when, disaster does strike, the credit union’s prepping, planning, and testing will be invaluable. Ultimately, the credit union wants a quick response time. It wants to make information accessible to members before they notice something is wrong. And peace of mind like that is priceless.

Without giving the specific amount we paid which would take away our negotiation power this solution is a little more expensive that the traditional tape and drivers, Ferguson says. However, if we did have a disaster, you couldn’t quantify the amount of money in reputation and in availability that we would preserve.

As advanced as Numerica’s disaster recovery system is today, though, situations and technologies change. What works well one year might be eclipsed by newer technology or design the next, so Numerica plans to remain prepared.

If you stay static with how things have been in the [past] you’ll be left behind or you won’t have the best availability or resources, not only for your organization but for your members, Ferguson says. It’s important to do your due diligence.

Because you never know what’s out there. Knock on wood.

December 4, 2013

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